Rise - All Roads Lead to Rome, but so Few to Its Women: The Challenges of Writing a Feminist Historical Novel Set During the Late Roman Republic

Parker, Kaarina
Manasiadis, Vana
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Master of Creative Writing
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Auckland University of Technology

RISE is a historical novel, set during the late Roman Republic. It follows the lives of three protagonists; Servilia, Clodia, and Fulvia, as they experience love and pain, discover their identities, and claim their power. When Servilia encounters a young man from her past, Julius, the lives of her and her son are changed forever. After takes Julius into her bed and, eventually, her heart, Servilia is drawn into the whirling cesspool of Roman politics. Clodia is a fiery young aristocrat, is shackled into marriage with an older man. Unwilling to resign herself to this fate, she engineers events so that she can have everything she wants. Her husband learns that she is not a woman to be controlled. Fulvia is married to Clodia’s brother, Clodius. As she learns more about Rome, and the republic that governs it, she begins to forge an identity for herself outside of the role of a wife, and develops a burning ambition that steers her family to a path of power and disruption. RISE uses an interweaving, multi-perspective narrative to give voice to its myriad of female characters, further employing a third-person POV (with varying psychic distance) to explore the themes of power, pain, love, and identity. It offers a much-needed feminist contrast to existing texts, such as Robert Harris’ Lustrum (2009) and Dictator (2015), Colleen McCullough’s Caesar’s Women (1996), and Conn Iggulden’s Field of Swords (2004) and Gods of War (2005). The critical work will inform the development of the creative work by examining the existing literature and popular works of historical Roman fiction, to establishing how RISE will challenge existing precedents for portraying Roman women, by giving voice to a feminine perspective lacking in the genre as it exists.

Historical fiction , Ancient Rome , Romance , Feminism , Literary Theory , Feminist Theory , Narrative Theory , Historiography , History , Fiction
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